Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Event Review: Folsom Street Fair

I will admit up front that I had originally decided to give Folsom Street Fair a pass this year, mainly because, like so many others, I felt it had grown too big, crowded, and generally uninteresting. But then the boyfriend landed a gig helping stage manage the 12th Street stage, and I figured I might as well go down and hang out for a while.

Kitty agreed to go over with me, and as I walked through Noe Valley on my way to his place in my jeans and rubber shirt, my faux hawk nicely spiked up, I passed two older women, one of whom said, as I passed “oh, that’s right, it’s Folsom weekend.” I smiled over that, and thought that one of the nice things about Folsom is that it gives guys an excuse to be sexy, something that is sadly lacking in our culture. Women can be sexy, but I’ve always felt that it’s much more difficult for a guy to put himself forth as sexy without it raising questions about his masculinity. It’s something I’ve struggled with a lot personally, and walking through Noe I felt a little excited to be out and about in an outfit that was purposefully sexually evocative (it was even better under my jeans, but the day turned out to be a bit cool for really getting down to the basics).

Kitty, Scooter and I met up with some friends in the vicinity of the dance stage, and while we stood there chatting, a Mistress in a lovely Vampirella-esque vinyl outfit came over leading a superhot boy on a leash. I will now make what, for San Francisco, land of bear and muscle worship, is a very politically incorrect statement: I really like cute, smooth, skinny, younger guys who might even verge into being femme. There, I said it. I know it’s an unpopular thing to admit, but sometimes you have to come out about these things. In this case the boy was wearing tattered Tripp pants, a raggedy gray muscle shirt, fishnet gloves, and a collar. On each upper arm he had an armband-like tattoo of a signal spike, sort of like what you see on an EKG monitor, and some eyeshadow around his eye sockets. A dogbone gag was strapped in his mouth, and he was drooling just a little. He was so hot I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and I watched as he and his Mistress posed for several photos, keeping his arms submissively at his sides until she led him off into the crowd. As he turned I saw that he had an Invader Zim messenger bag strapped across his back.

I was a little too dumbfounded by seeing a boy that I actually wanted to molest at Folsom Street to do any of the things I should have done, like walking up and asking the Mistress if I could pet her puppy. But seeing him excited me in more ways than one; maybe, I thought, this will be the year that I run into other cute boys, oh my!

The goth puppy was on my mind as we walked up to the 12th Street stage to check in with the boyfriend, and then when we made our way back to the dance stage. Having now thought up all my good lines, I was hoping I might have a chance to use them. We stayed at the dance stage for a while and then decided to try and rendezvous with our friends at the Cat Club. As we inched our way through the mob I realized that, not only had I missed my opportunity but, judging from the crowd I now saw around me, I wasn’t going to have much opportunity for any similar encounters because the crowd had just gotten too big.

That’s my problem with Folsom; in theory, I love the idea of a fetish street fair, and I’ve had moments of enjoying it in practice. But it has gotten so big that the things I like about it – the opportunity to be exhibitionistic, to run into and possibly flirt with cute goth boys in bondage – are basically lost in the crowd. Whatever effort I might have made to express my own individual fetishistic tendencies simply becomes another person in shiny rubber walking around, while the things that are attractive to me become tiny motes borne away by the churning sea of identical, boring clones in their uniforms of chaps, biker caps, jeans and harnesses. Rather than being an event where I can go to explore my fetish side and connect with others with whom I might share some interests, Folsom has become a place where I just get lost in the crowd. It’s a little too much like real life in that respect, rather than the affirmation of whatever it is I’m trying to affirm, so I think this may be my last year at Folsom Street.


SeanF said...

my theory in general is, that where ever you go, you have to bring your own party. The only question is what kind of backdrop you want to have.

This is of course an idealized view of life, cuz you don't always have a party crew at your disposal. I guess I just don't expect any event to dazzle me in and of itself.

Larry-bob said...

I have this theory that there are actually a miniscule percentage of people who have a genuine, honest leather fetish. Everyone else is just wearing the approved uniform.

I'm a live music guy, and I do think that Folsom generally has the best bands. I enjoyed the English Beat's set that I saw at the 12th Street stage.

The Jaded Gay DJ said...

Actually, I was backstage when the English Beat did their last three songs, and I really enjoyed it! Of course I remember them quite well from my college days, and it was pretty fun to see them live for the first time ever at Folsom Street, but wow, has Dave Wakeling put on weight or what?

As for the approved uniform, well, that's what I think most of the San Francisco gay scene is about, it's just a matter of which uniform you choose. I had written more about how I think the blandness of Folsom Street Fair reflects the conformist images of masculinity that dominate the scene, but that was getting me off the track and into some potentially controversial comments I don't feel like defending right now. But I will say that, if you're not a bear or a muscle stud and you're walking around the Castro looking at club flyers you might have a pretty hard time figuring out exactly how you fit into things.